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World Cup – Class of 2014

With the world cup now under way, one of the things we’ll all be looking to see is how the superstars such as Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar perform. But what about the young players that will be the stars of future tournaments (or even this tournament)?

The viz below was prompted by this article http://grantland.com/features/the-kids-of-the-world-cup/. The article shows that by applying a statistical technique known as Z-Scores to the age distribution of team squads in previous world cup tournaments, you can identify many of the players that have become the superstars of today. It therefore follows that by applying the same technique to the current squads it should be possible to identify the superstars of the future.

A Z-score  is the number of standard deviations that is above or below a population mean and is available in Tableau through the function  WINDOW_STDEVP. As a general rule, Z-scores of less than -1.96 or greater than 1.96 are considered unusual and generally very interesting.  The viz below shows all players with a Z-score of -1.0 or less. This is because the focus is on players who are young in comparison to the average age of the squad. While it may seem fairly intuitive that players who break into a world  cup squad at a young age are likely to be the stars of the future, the Z-score helps identify those that are young in contrast to the rest of their specific squad. This seems to be the factor that marks them out.

It’s interesting to click around different countries and see the Z-scores of past and present squads. A couple of observations. Neymar is still young enough to achieve a low Z-score even as a recognised star. But you will see that Bernard achieves the lowest Z-score in the Brazilian squad. Those who follow football more closely will know Bernard as an emerging talent.  The members of the Argentina 2010 world cup squad with Z-scores lower than -1.0 are the players that make them one of the tournament favourites in 2014. However none of the current squad have a score of -1.0 or less. Perhaps this is the tournament they have to win. There are many other examples such as Julien Green in the US squad who now plays for Bayern Munich and is a sought after talent and Christen Eriksen who had a very low Z-score for Denmark in 2010 and is now their star player.

There is a link into the Wikipedia profile for each player. You can also hover over the array of all players since the 1982 tournament and see who the outliers are.

[tableau server=”public.tableausoftware.com” workbook=”WorldCupClassof2014″ view=”MapDashboard” tabs=”no” toolbar=”no” revert=”” refresh=”yes” linktarget=”” width=”600px” height=”799px”][/tableau]




Chris Raby

London, UK

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